Saturday, February 05, 2011

Kabob City-A Taste of the Middle East

Tonight for a change of pace, we decided to visit a newer restaurant in the Flint area. Kabob City has been open a few months, located in a former Chinese buffet and previous to that , the main Moy Kong Asian dining establishment. Moy Kong at one time had several satellite to-go eateries but at this time, I can't verify that any are still in business. Kabob City is the 4th Middle Eastern eating house to open within a few miles of each other. Badawest, the oldest sit down of this style in Genesee County, relocated to a larger facility (from a hole in the wall)  near the freeway on Corunna Road quite a while ago and is the one I use to judge the others for taste, price and atmosphere.  Taboon, about a half mile from Kabob City once had a twin in Grand Blanc, but this location is working for them and they are often open on holidays, too. Jerusalem Inn, about 2 miles away, sadly had a devastating fire (ruled an arson) a few years ago and was not re-opened as an ethnic dining establishment, but the area is not lacking for this type of food.

Depending on what you order, Middle Eastern dining can be quite healthy for you. But you MUST say no to the bread basket! As soon as we sat down, we were greeted by Olivia, who brought us iced tea (appeared fresh brewed but watered down) , bread and garlic spread. We nibbled as we perused the menu-I scoped out the vegetarian items and hubby chose the "other".

This bread is similar is style to Badawest, so I think it's purchased from a local bakery or brought up from the main bakery in the Detroit area. Unlike Taboon, which bakes their own bread on site, this  was warmed and had been grilled a bit-in some cases actually charred. I hope that isn't a normal way of serving it. The garlic spread/sauce pictured below, is often served with chicken shawarma dinners as a dip, too. I found the garlic sauce to be strong like I love it to be, but it was  very thin. Other eateries have more substance to their sauce, so perhaps this was made with a tad too much lemon juice or they thinned it with yogurt. It was tasty, just not thick. I personally never turn down anything with garlic! BTW-this small dish is called a monkey. I don't know why but it's one of those things I learned years ago and just adds to my trivial mind.

My menu selection was the Veggie Combo for 14.95. This is a good way to get lots of flavors, instead of ordering off the appy list. Honestly, I thought it would all come on one large platter but each item came on its own plate, so that is how I present them to you. Normally, I always try to get a salad, with dressing on the side to start a meal. I just like the crunchiness of lettuces and other raw veggies. But tonight I had a choice of soup or salad and went with the lentil soup. I started to eat before I remembered to take the photo. Oops! The soup was very warm and tasty altho I thought a bit salty. Hubby said the saltiness went away after the first bite, as he also ordered this vegetarian starter. I though it hung on, but it wasn't too much of a big deal. I did finish it and would not hesitate to order it again. I believe it to be the only vegetarian soup on the menu.

As my mini plates, very  similar to Tapas ,began arriving, I felt a bit overwhelmed and self conscious because my dining partner was not getting anything to eat beyond his lentil soup. I offered him bites of my bounty but he decided to wait until his dead chicken arrived.  This falafel was very fresh and green on the inside just as it should be. Sometimes I have had falafel at other establishments where it was brownish all the way thru and very dry-meaning they were instant falafel. This was deliciously moist and served with some greens and a bit of  tahini sauce. The tahini was way too watery and almost tasteless but I can live without it with falafel. I just dipped it in the garlic sauce that was served with the bread.

One big  fail and a huge disappointment to me was the hummus. It was very dilute and I think it was because the preparers  used the same tahini from above to make the hummus. I like my hummus thick like peanut butter but creamy. I  imagine you can pick up that this hummus would not have held itself to a spoon for long. This is something easily fixable, but it's up to the cook to know that hummus is not supposed to be soupy.  Or if it was a mistake, add more garbanzos to thicken it up.

I also had a small plate of vegetarian grape leaves. These were wonderfully moist, stuffed with spiced rice, diced garbanzos and a few flecks of sweet red peppers and a bit of mint. They are very filling, so it's hard to eat more than one or two. I have leftovers for tomorrow which I will stuff into some pita bread and make a sammy! This dish is fairly common in Greek cuisine and others along the eastern Mediterranean so I assume each country has its own add-ins. The minced garbanzos were a nice change of pace.

A reason why I didn't get my normal salad is my meal included Tabouli. This ultra fresh dish is super healthy and can be made in just minutes. I tend to make this with a tad more bulgur/cracked wheat. This dish was served almost room temperature, and was not overloaded with lemon as other places tend to serve it. A lemon on the side  will give those who like this dish more lemony a chance to "pucker" a bit.

 Perhaps the biggest disappointment to me were the spinach pies (also known as fatayer). I have had this style in many a diner, and this was the worst. I don't know if it was the particular cook, the regional representation or just plain cheapness but these reminded me of canned biscuit dough. They were "doughy" not flaky. And the spinach inside was pretty much a tad of spinach and some onion. I could not discern any feta cheese as other eateries serve them. In fact, all the recipes I have include feta. Not a lot but enough for me to see it! I much prefer this made with phyllo dough as it's so flaky. But this dish would have worked if they had not been steamed. I could tell right away that they were probably reheated either in a microwave or something that would not crisp up the dough. I would not bother with them again.

Kabob City is very similar in pricing and selection of dishes that  others in the area serving this style of food  typically offer. They do present  a Buffet Salad Bar, which is unique to the Middle Eastern trio  and this is served between 11 AM and 7 PM and it comes with bread and dips for 5.95 so if you want to eat light, this might be the way to go. Also for the health conscious, is a full juice and smoothie menu.  I did not see a children's menu but with these smaller plates, you can get something for the kidlets to eat. Of course, there is the ubiquitous hamburgers and chicken strips in case the little ones object but I think you should discourage them if you can and order some grilled items. I bet they would love it!

I cannot vouch for the decor being new, a hold-over from the old Chinese buffet or a combo of the two. The last time I was inside, it was still Moy Kong and my kids were in junior high or less. I would like to see them cozy it up a bit, as it was way too bright with vast areas of empty space. Cloth lined the tables but were covered with clear plastic overlay which are a cinch to clean but kinda cheesy. If they did a remodel, they need to have the contractor come back and fix the wall paper which is coming away from the wall (I ran my finger along seams and the  glue isn't holding). There is no focal point but room for one, and maybe a demo of Middle Eastern dance or  weekend music  is a possibility.  Additionally is  room for a moderate sized  gathering off to the side. I believe they have free Wi Fi available. I hope the decor is only on the lesser side for now as they want to make sure this location works for them and isn't jinxed as the previous conceptions have been.

One other item to address: our waiter was attentive, almost to the fault of being annoying. It seemed she asked how our food tasted every other bite. Perhaps she is new to waiting and this will finesse itself. I would have liked to see the food presented to us at the same time, so we could have both eaten together. This is probably a problem for the kitchen and certainly not the waiter's fault.

I would award this newest place to dine a B- at this time. I almost gave it a C+ but waited to let the meal and experience settle in. It's always a plus to see a formerly empty place re-open and I hope they get more business as it wasn't particularly busy for a Friday night (the rib and burger sit-downs a quarter mile down the road had a back logging at the entrance areas). A better street level sign would help them immensely. Kabob City is very vegetarian and vegan friendly, especially the appetizer category. You can mix and match and make a full meal from these selections.

ETA: 3/10/11 I have received a couple of comments which you can read below. I don't know who they are from and do not reflect my opinion. I am not paid to write these reviews, nor do I receive any compensation in cash or food to write them. I am doing this because I feel there is a need to let others know that vegans and vegetarians can eat locally and get more than a plain salad. I would love it if the comments were not anonymous but the only other option would be for me to moderate. I will leave anonymous for now and I will not reject any comments UNLESS they are nasty rude. Thanks for dropping by.


  1. Anonymous5:35 PM

    All this is true, i went and dinned at this establishment and the food was very unpleasing i hope that they get a new cook or try to put more care into there food all in all they are new and dont have that much experience, their around the corner rivals Taboon in my opinion and several others that i have interviewed think that it is a better place to eat and the food is 10 times better. In the end Kabob City needs improvement and until they improve i will not dine there.

  2. Anonymous9:40 PM

    Taboons paid you to say so? All the people I know have been going to Taboons and Badawest for ages and recently they all switched to Kabob City because the food and service are beyond excellent. It's clean and fancy restaurant not to mention the quality of food tops all the other middle-eastern restaurants in the area. There is no competition period!

  3. Anonymous1:46 AM

    I'm from Flint, MI. I totally respect you opinions and my comment ( the second one) was a response to the first anonymous comment not to blog. I didn't meant to offend you.

  4. Anonymous9:49 PM

    What are the times that they are open/

  5. To anyone who wants to know the hours of operation, please call the eatery at 810-720-5462.


I really enjoy my blogging and hope you enjoy reading. Remember, these are only my opinions relating to my daily experiences. If you are anonymous, let me know what city and state you are from in your comment. Thanks.